[ To skip the introduction and access the list of guides, scroll to the bottom of this page ]
About one-third of food produced globally is never eaten. It’s an astounding statistic that doesn’t get as much attention as it ought to. Food loss and waste, as it’s officially named, has tremendous impacts as well. All that food that’s later wasted still has to be grown, taking up precious land and consuming a lot of water. Energy is used to cultivate, harvest, process, and transport it. Resources are expended keeping food clean, safe, and often cool. Then finally, when food is disposed of it usually ends up in landfills, where it produces planet-warming methane gas. It all adds up. In fact, food that’s later wasted is estimated to account for 24% of freshwater use, be responsible for 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions, and represents the largest single input into landfills. The environmental impacts are larger than those of the entire airline industry combined, we just don’t think about them.
The funny thing is - no one wants to waste food. People would rather make sure food is put to its best use, which generally is feeding ourselves. Why would I want to buy something only to throw it away later? It’s a waste of hard earned money! Plus, I know so many people globally are facing hunger, so it also just feels wrong. It’s an insidious problem, often hiding in plain sight. Throwing out food just isn’t something we think about much, it barely registers. This might be why in most developed countries households are by far the biggest contributors, accounting for around half of all food that’s wasted. Yes - that’s you and me. This also just so happens to be the worst type of waste, since by then food has already gone through the entire supply chain, consuming precious resources along its entire journey before becoming an anonymous methane emitting ball of rotting organic matter at your nearby landfill.
But there’s also a growing awareness of the issue. People are starting to awaken to the size of the food waste problem, and the opportunity it represents. Unlike many other climate friendly behaviors, reducing food waste saves money in the near term. It doesn’t require switching to an expensive electric vehicle or buying the higher priced sustainably raised chicken. The payback is also quick. While methane is 100 times as potent as CO2 over a 20 year period, it also dissipates much faster. Since a chunk of the environmental footprint of wasted food is related to the methane it emits once it goes into the landfill, this means reducing food waste also has a substantial near term impact on global warming, much more so than reducing CO2.
All of this is good and well, but the reality is since food waste is so insidious and multifactorial, reducing it isn’t easy. A large chunk of food waste at home is caused by over-purchasing and over-preparing. This basically means we end up buying things that are left to spoil, or we make too much and either discard the scraps or end up trashing the leftovers later. One of the core ways to fight this is by making it easier to buy the right amount of stuff, for which meal planning is a particularly well suited intervention. But what do we do when we’ve already bought the stuff? When we open the crisper drawer to find that that spinach is looking like it’s on its last legs? When one apple has a spot of rot and we’re worried the others might follow? When we got a bit too enthusiastic when chicken breasts were on sale and now we’re starting to feel a sense of poultry panic thinking about what the heck to do with all of it? That’s where our Save The Food guide comes in. The goal of these guides is simple: provide relatively concise, practical, and factual information to help you make the most of your food once you’ve bought it. Each guide will cover how to identify whether food can still be salvaged, provide overviews of different ways to salvage the food (both for immediate use and in order to save it for later), and share tips on proper storage to maximize shelf life.
Can I still use my….(apples, bananas, spinach, chicken, etc.)?
Each guide begins with a section to help you identify whether your food is still good to use. You won’t find advice on checking the date printed on food, since in the U.S. almost all dates printed on food have nothing to do with food safety and often refer to some quality characteristic. The experts broadly recommend using your senses, which of course feels a lot scarier and more open-ended than relying on the somewhat arbitrary date printed on food. In this section you’ll be guided on what to look and smell for. We also dispel myths, such as the notion that a since moldy berry necessitates throwing out the entire batch. All the information here is based on guidance from trusted sources such as the USDA and various food safety experts. Sometimes, you will have to throw out food, but there’s also a broad range of uses for food that may be past its peak, but still perfectly safe to eat.
How to save….(chicken, lettuce, bananas, etc.)
The guides continue on with various uses for food at risk of being wasted. These often include tips and tricks for saving the food for later. One of the tricky things about food at risk of going bad is that sometimes you’re simply not in the mood to eat it, or you have too much to use up immediately, and that’s ok. There are myriad ways to save food so you can eat it later, ranging from cooking chicken to extend its life by a few days to freezing berries for use up to many months later. The guides also incorporate ideas that may not immediately come to mind, such as making compotes out of fruit, creating herb cubes, or shocking your wilted greens back into their crisp former selves in an ice-bath. Of course, ideas for immediate use are also presented, enter the trusty smoothie or leftover fried rice.
How to prevent…from going bad
Finally, guides include information on proper storage so you can maximize the amount of time you have before food goes bad. It’s amazing how much of our food storage behaviors are based simply on something along the lines of “it’s because that’s how I’ve always done it,” or “that’s how I learned to do it growing up.” There are some basic, lesser known concepts we present that can prove to be rather impactful, like keeping ethylene producing fruits away from ethylene sensitive ones (if you don’t know what the heck ethylene is, don’t worry - we didn’t either before we made saving food our mission). There are also simple ideas that might liberate your thinking - should you really keep all your produce in your fridge’s crisper drawer if you always forget about it there? Wouldn’t it be better to just put them somewhere in plain sight? Armed with some basic information you’ll likely find you’re able to make things last longer, which is the first step toward fighting food waste.
Below is a list of the current “Save The Food” guides we’ve created, which we plan to expand over time. We hope these help you get the most out of your food. If you have any questions or other feedback, feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com.